SOURCE: NARAYAN APTE/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
In 2021, Dassault Aviation has secured repeat orders for 30 jets from Egypt, 80 units for Rafale F4 variant from UAE that goes into production in 2024, and Greece earlier this year procured 12 second-hand and six brand new Rafale and later also ordered six more and to top that Croatia also signed a deal to procure 12 second-hand Rafale F3-R fighter jets, that means Dassault has a massive order book of 146 units in sales for just 2021 as more countries like Qatar are likely to go for more jets in 2022.
Dassault Aviation’s main assembly location at the Merignac near Bordeaux in southwestern France had started with a moderate rate of production with 11 units per year later it doubled to 22 from 2018 when it got first export Rafale orders from India, Egypt, and Qatar, and this year’s bumper sale and replacement of used Ex-French Air Force Rafale jets means that either Dassault will need to up its production rate or expand its main assembly facility but that won’t happen instantly and will require three years to argument its present facility while Dassault is yet to reveal how it plans to cater to fresh orders.
Plant at the Merignac can manufacture 24 jets in a year and if India agrees to place fresh orders for the Rafale F4 variant in 2022 then it could start coming 4 years down the line due to the backlog of orders that Dassault need to clear first. The idea could be to start a second assembly line but Dassault won’t and, likely, the deliveries of French Air Force orders of 28 jets plus 24 sold to Greece and Croatia might be delayed further.
Dassault Aviation has been pushing India for the last few years to place orders for 36 more Rafale F4 jets but India has been dragging its fleet after reports of alleged payoff made to middlemen in the previous negotiation linked to the UPA era emerged that has been used by the main opposition party in India to allege that the deal is tinted.
Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL) in Nagpur was created so that it could cater to the larger orders that might come from India but that now is mostly limited to manufacturing cockpits for the French manufacturer’s Falcon business jets, besides other parts for the Rafale jet and recently it has been decided that it will also cater to service Rafael aircraft already in service with IAF from 2023 onwards.
Dassault has agreed to start the assembly of Rafale jets in India only if orders are for 100 units but it doesn’t look like India is any closer to ink a deal for purchasing 114 jets from Dassault any time and even if it does in 2022 that means it will take 4-5 years before the first jet is rolled out from DRAL facility.